Wednesday, July 4, 2012

In Darkest Night by Christina Richter

Crested moon and sundered sight
Twisted hag and blackened night
Once and thrice the shrew doth wail
Shrouded by her bloodied veil
Crowned by thorns and bound by woe
‘Neath rotting moors her seed doth sew
Mercy hath no venture here
Her sired succubus draws near.

A piercing scream sliced through the air and stabbed at her ears with stark terror as she bolted upright in her bed. It took only a moment to realize the scream was her own, leaving her throat raw and hoarse. Her frail form shaking, slender fingers wiped at the beads of sweat that had formed on her brow.

It was coming more often now, the nightmare ravaging her dreams these last few months. It was the same thing every time and it always left her weak and looking over her shoulder. “What did it all mean?” she wondered, frustration settling deep in the hunch of her shoulders. With a sigh she fell back against her disheveled pillows, reliving the dream in her mind.
 That face, she shuddered. That face burned behind her eyes and wouldn’t leave her even in her waking hours. Sometimes she often thought she saw his face, swimming amid the crowd of bustling strangers. A jogger, the soft and gentle face of an elderly woman, the Policeman on the corner, their faces would suddenly melt into a grotesque and malevolent sneer with cold, dead eyes. Maybe she was losing her mind. They say it runs in the family. She was told her mother went crazy, spoke to shadows and danced naked in the rain. I suppose there’s no harm in dancing but naked in the downtown square chanting some garble about the devil siring your bastard child was frowned upon. They locked her up, but as misfortune would have it, she was found three days later hanging by her bed sheets. Mary didn’t know her mother enough to grieve for her. Although she supposed she grieved the idea of her. After having given her up at birth, she spent much of her life in and out of the hell known as Foster Care. She didn’t care to relive any of those memories.

Mary swept the blankets off and stumbled into the bathroom. She flipped on the light and leaned against the sink studying herself in the mirror. Lines had started parading across her forehead and gray hair was peeking out from her temples. Her eyes that were still puffy from sleep seemed to have permanent bags under them, she was getting old. As she studied herself a moment more, another sigh punched past her lips, today was going to be a long day. 
 The brisk shower and strong coffee seemed to stave off the sleep deprivation that kept nagging at her these days. She was even amicable to the impatient jerks at the crosswalk that were always pushing and shoving past. Instead of shoving back and barking “Watch it!” she just grunted and kept on going, shoving her fists into her pockets. She even kept her cool when Mr. Idiot Delivery Guy careened down the street that she worked on at break neck speeds. “One of these days you’re going to kill someone,” she muttered under her breath.


“Hi, Mary!” came the elated voices of the kids at St. Luke’s Group Home.

“Hey guys!” she smiled and waved to them all sitting in the games room. She found it ironic that her field of work had been in the very area that she had fought so hard to get away from, but these kids were different. This was a special needs group home; all of the “friends” were physically and/or mentally challenged.

“Mary! Mary!” a young, smiling man yelled while running towards her with arms out stretched.

“Hi, Tommy,” she laughed, taking him in for a big hug. “Have you finished your breakfast?”

 He laughed and smiled wide, “Yeah!”

“Good boy!” she winked, which made him clap and laugh happily. Tommy looked like any other 19 year old, but he had the mind of a 6 year and wouldn’t develop passed that age. He had been in the home since he was 10, his father no longer willing to care for a son who was “different”.

“I see that you have to finish your breakfast, Mary!” he said, pointing to the paper bag in her hand that had her Beggel.

“That’s right, Tommy! I’m heading to my office right now and that’s just what I’m going to do. Now, how about you go in there and make sure that the others finish up their breakfast, ok?”

“Ok, Mary,” he replied, never making eye contact but smiling happily none the less.

Mary smiled and reached out giving his arm a gentle squeeze, “Good boy,” she whispered with a wink. She continued on her way to her office, greeting her fellow staff members as she went. Just before she got to her door she noticed David, one of the residents, peeking from behind a corner watching her. She smiled knowing that he was shy and quiet. He was what they referred to as “a lifer”, left on their doorstep as a baby. His parents saw his down syndrome as a reason to abandon him.

 “Good morning, David,” she offered, hoping that it would draw him out to talk to her, but the moment she spoke he had turned away and left, probably fleeing to the safety of his room. “Hmm,” she muttered, shrugging and then entering her office. There was a stack of messages waiting for her on the desk, the usual “Mr. & Mrs. So and So want to meet you about their son/daughter,” blah, blah, blah’s. She squared her shoulders picking up the phone, “And the fun begins,” she sighed.

Mary worked right through lunch, someone brought her a tray but the only thing she had eaten from it was the apple slices. Sitting, staring at the computer screen was making her eyes burn…on top of the burn from lack of sleep. She leaned back in her chair rubbing her eyes, taking a long, deep breath. A second deep breath ended up as a yawn and it was on the exhale that she noticed David standing outside her office watching her again. “David?” she asked, tilting her head curiously. Startled he jumped back and retreated.

 “David wait!” she yelled, getting up to follow him. He was already halfway down the hall when she started after him. “David wait, please! Why are you avoiding me?” He kept glancing over his shoulder at her; there was a look of fear in his eyes that she needed to get to the bottom of. She didn’t understand why he would be afraid of her. She had to talk to him. “David, please…slow down, you’re way too fast for me!” she laughed, hoping to ease the situation and get him to stop. She managed to catch up to him in the hallway near his room and was able to stop him from shutting his door on her. “David…” she pleaded, stopping his door with her hand. “David, whatever is the matter? Why are you trying to get away from me?” David cast his eyes down to the floor and didn’t reply. “Have I done something to upset you?” He shook his head no. “Has something happened?” Again he shook his head. “What is it then, David?” He looked at her then and took her hand pulling her into his room and ushering her to sit on his bed with him. “Ok, David…what is it? You know you can tell me anyth—“

“You’re going to die!” David blurted.

Mary stared at him a moment, “Excuse me?”

“He’s coming,” he whispered.

 “Who’s coming? David, what are you talking about?”

“The bad man with the scary face is coming! He’s going to get you, Mary!” he was looking at her with genuine fear in his eyes.

“David…” she put her hands on his shoulders, “did you have a bad dream? No one is coming to get me. I’m fine, ok?”

“No! I saw it! He’s coming! I see him in my dreams and so do you, Mary!”

Stunned, Mary looked at him shaking her head. He couldn’t possibly…”David…how do you know about my dreams?”

David looked down at his hands in his lap, “Sometimes I see things, Mary, things that come true.”

“What else have you seen, David?”

“I saw when Tommy was going to break his arm last year and it came true, Mary! It came true!”

“Yes, David, Tommy did break his arm but that doesn’t mea—“

 “Someone else is going to die too.”

Mary searched David’s features looking for something that made sense. This was all crazy! “What do you mean, David?”

“Someone else is going to die. They’re going to be in a car accident and it’s going to happen soon.” David sat there concentrating on his hands, holding them tightly together.

“Car accidents happen all the time, David…”

“This one will happen here on our street,” he said, pointing his finger downward, “right out front!”

“David, I—“

David suddenly flung his arms around her, “Please don’t go home tonight, Mary! He’s there and he’s going to get you! I don’t want you to die!”

Mary slowly put her arms around him confused and frightened; her heart beating against her chest. She was unable to say anything, his words were echoing in her mind.

 A moment later she looked up to see staff members running by, some were on their cell phones speaking urgently. Mary got up and stuck her head out the door, “What’s going on?” she asked one of the nurses running by.

“Someone just got hit out front!”

Mary gasped and took off running behind the nurse. When they got outside a crowd had gathered. The nurse pushed through the people hoping that she could help. They cleared a path and let her through and when Mary saw, her hand flew to her mouth as she gasped. There, lying on the pavement was an elderly man lying in a pool of blood. His body was twisted, his neck snapped and his eyes were staring out vacant and lifeless. About fifty feet away Mr. Idiot Delivery Guy stood talking on his phone, he was pacing back and forth smoking a cigarette.

The world around her began to spin, David’s words thundering in her head. “He’s coming for you, Mary! He’s waiting for you!” and then everything went black.


“Mary? Mary?” she heard somewhere in the fog. “I think she’s coming around. Mary? Can you hear me?” Mary opened her eyes and saw the nurse looking down at her smiling. “So good of you to come back to us, that was quite the little fainting spill you took!”

Mary sat up with some assistance and rubbed at her face and neck, “What happened?”

“Well, when you saw that poor man who got hit by the delivery van, you just…” she gestured with her hands, “fell over and was out cold.”

“Is he—“ Mary looked at Brenda unable to continue.

“Yes. He’s very much dead.” Mary could only stare, unable to form words. “Listen, sweetie, I’m gonna have someone drive you home, ok?”

Mary shook her head, more so to clear her thoughts, “Oh no, that’s not necessary, I’m fine.”

“Oh yes, I’m the nurse and I say, you’re gonna get a ride home.” She looked sternly at Mary with a no if’s, and’s or but’s kind of glare.

“A-alright…” she stuttered. “Alright, I’ll just go get my things.”

 “No need. Fred!” the nurse yelled. From behind her stepped her assistant with Mary’s purse and sweater in hand.

“Oh.” Mary started to get up and hands shot out around her helping her up. “Thank you,” she said mechanically, not bothering to look at their faces.

As she was helped into one of her co-worker’s cars, in one of the front windows she saw the grim expression of David watching her.

At home she cracked some windows to let the breeze run through, the summer heat already dampening her shirt with sweat. Laying down she closed her eyes and thought about the man that died. The stare of his dead eyes had stuck with her and she couldn’t shake that feeling. Plus David’s words still echoed.

Sighing in frustration, she decided that she wasn’t going to give his vision any power by fretting over it. So she rolled over and went to sleep. Almost immediately the nightmare came, the darkness, the whispers. Mary always saw his face at a distance but the last little while his face had been closer in each dream. Tonight’s dream had her almost within his reach. His horrific, disfigured face sneering at her in a self-satisfied way that seemed to say, “You’re mine.” He just stood there watching her and then all at once he lunged at her and she screamed!

 Her scream woke her up and she bolted up right, the sheets and her clothes drenched with sweat. Instantly she panicked because the room was pitch black. She must have slept all day; she had forgotten to put any lights on. Mary reached over and grasped her lamp chain and gave a tug…nothing. Shit. She reached in the drawer and grabbed her lighter that she used for her aromatic candles on her bedside table. After lighting one, Mary felt her way over to her bedroom door and felt for the switch to her room. Nothing. “What the hell?” Her heart started racing, her throat constricting. “It’s just a power outage. It’s just a power outage,” she desperately tried to convince herself.

She started padding down the hallway, the only source of light was the candle she held in her shaking hand. The flame flickered when her breath shivered past her lips as she tried to ease her thundering heart. She stretched out her arm and patted the wall for guidance as she walked. The darkness seemed to move and surge, menacing and terrifying.

 “Mary…” she sucked in a shrill breath and whirled around to face whoever had whispered her name. But there was nothing, nothing but the wind ruffling the lace of a curtain. “Who’s there?” she called out, her voice pitched and frantic. The only sound that returned to her was her shaky breath that seemed so impossibly loud in the God forsaken darkness. She wanted to cry out! To scream, but she couldn’t, she was too afraid, as if the sound would invite unimaginable horrors. Still her footsteps pushed forward and just as she was about to round the corner, that same low whisper rasped her name again. She turned her head knowing that there was nothing there. Sobbing with fear that seared every inch of her flesh, she turned back and her eyes flared wide as there before her was the cold, steel gaze of death, the glowering, impetuous eyes of her predator. The candle went out, her scream pierced the night and the darkness shifted and shuddered in its delight.

In darkest night the shadows creep

Dripping with the fear they reap
A scream is heard, the deed is done
Another wretched soul’s been won.

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